After a year of contract negotiations that resulted in numerous delays and declines in cargo movement at ports along the West Coast, union dockworkers and port operators have reached a tentative deal lasting six years.
In a joint statement released late Wednesday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association announced a tentative agreement on a new contract that covers 22,000 workers at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle, some of the world’s largest. are the busiest.
Details about the agreement, which is expected to be formally ratified by both sides, were not immediately released.
President Biden, who stepped in last year to urge a quick resolution, issued a statement congratulating the two sides on reaching an agreement “after lengthy and sometimes acrimonious negotiations”.
“As I’ve always said, collective bargaining works,” Mr. Biden said. “Above all I congratulate the port employees who have served heroically amid the pandemic and the countless challenges it has brought and will finally receive the pay, benefits and quality of life they deserve.”
Mr. Biden also thanked Acting US Labor Secretary Julie Sue for her assistance in finalizing the deal.
The outcome on Wednesday to some extent reflects past talks between the two sides. In 2015, negotiations dragged on for nine months, with Obama administration officials intervening amid a slowdown in work and increasing congestion at the ports.
Long talks between the union representing shipping terminals and the Pacific Maritime Association have focused on disagreements over wages and the growing role of automation.
In recent weeks the Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, has staged a series of work slowdowns at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, losing large business to ports on the Gulf and East Coasts in recent months . Cargo processing at the Port of Los Angeles, a major entry point for shipments from Asia, was down about 40 percent in February compared with a year earlier.
Recently, the US Chamber of Commerce wrote to Mr. Biden urging the administration to immediately intervene in the talks and appoint an independent mediator to help the two sides reach an agreement.
Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, said the ongoing delays and disruptions have had a negative impact on retailers and other stakeholders who depend on West Coast ports for business operations.
“As we enter the all-important peak shipping season for holiday merchandise, retailers need a seamless flow of containers through ports and their distribution centers,” Mr. Shay said.
On Wednesday, Port of Los Angeles chief Gene Seroka said in a statement that the tentative agreement between the ILWU and Pacific Maritime “brings the stability and confidence that customers are seeking.”
Matt Schrapp, chief executive officer of the Harbor Trucking Association, a trade group for transportation companies serving West Coast ports, said his organization is looking forward to an early return to cargo traffic.
“We need certainty,” he said. “It’s been a long, difficult process.”